Why every digital marketer should learn how to code

To deliver an overall digital brand strategy, marketers need to understand the technology that underpins their online campaigns.


Isn’t it time you understood the basic language of your day-to-day job? Or are you still acting like the worst sort of tourist, refusing to adapt to a new culture and simply shouting louder in an effort to get people to understand you?

Anyone working in digital marketing needs to start working on a basic understanding of the technological building blocks behind what they do. If you’re a marketer, chief executive or any sort of business leader, a day’s investment in learning how to code should be top of your list. After all, Sir Charles Dunstone, co-founder of Carphone Warehouse, certainly thinks so.

Dunstone was one of the early students at Decoded, a one-day course with the seemingly unbelievable promise to teach anyone to code in a day. The course, less than a year old, has seen senior staff from brands ranging from Unilever to Bacardi to the BBC take part.

There have been numerous attempts over recent years to teach coding in an accessible manner and Decoded is sure to be followed
by similar initiatives. But what is so striking about its success is the range of people it has managed to attract: everyone from CEOs to brand managers to financial directors. The list goes on and it involves many people you really wouldn’t expect to be interested in coding.

This has as much to do with a significant shift in business culture happening over the past couple of years as it does to do with the admittedly brilliant nature of Decoded itself.

No successful marketer or business can afford to exist in a silo when it comes to digital. However, while integration is a buzzword across the industry, huge chasms remain between the different departments and skills needed for any successful digital marketing. You can’t simply make sure everyone understands the importance of online in your business. You have to understand how every part of your business involved in delivering digital strategy actually functions.

Any digital marketing is only as robust and effective as the technological and operational infrastructure that underpins it. Despite this, many marketers still don’t really understand their tech or operations teams or the work they do. For instance, advertising operations, aka adops – the people who actually make sure your digital marketing campaign is delivered on time, to the right place and to the right people.

I built a multiplatform, locationaware app using HTML5, CSS and Javascript. If any of those acronyms scare or confuse you, it’s time to worry.Will I ever build an app like this again? Unlikely, but learning even the basics of the language makes me look at the world in a different way

Communication between adops and the sales and marketing functions in an organisation is critical for campaigns to be effective. Yet adops teams in many companies still often feel ignored and undervalued by marketing. As online advertising becomes ever more complex, especially with the rapid growth of programmatic trading – real-time bidding and associated functions – adops teams have evolved far from the ‘traffic managers’ of old. It’s why Admonsters, which represents adops teams, has become so influential, bringing in ITV Online managing director Fru Hazlitt to address its last conference.

Understanding this part of your business can transform your online operations and deliver immediate return on the effectiveness of your digital marketing strategy. The easiest way to do this is simply to understand and deliver a common understanding and language across your organisation. After all, how can you ever hope to deliver an overall digital brand strategy for your company if you don’t truly understand how each component works?

This is why the investment in understanding coding is worth it. Few marketers actually want to become computer programmers. All marketers today should desperately want to stop feeling excluded from the technology that underpins their marketing strategy.

Despite having covered digital as a journalist for over 15 years, I walked away from a single day learning to code feeling that I finally understood the basic building blocks of the industry. I built a multiplatform, location-aware app using HTML5, CSS and Javascript. If any of those acronyms confuse you, it’s time to worry. Will I ever build an app like this again? Unlikely, but learning even the basics of the language makes me look at the world in a different way.

Understanding code empowers you. Not understanding code is for any digital marketer “like architects not understanding bricks and mortar”, according to Decoded co-founder Kathryn Parsons.

It’s easy for brands to talk about ‘putting digital at the heart of their company’ and ‘living in a post-digital age’, but such clichés are fast becoming redundant. Your customers are already ahead of you and you owe it to them to become even basically literate in the technology you are using to try to interact with them.

Justin Pearse is editor of new media age



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Lucy Handley

Does your brand need to perform the business equivalent of a U-turn? Lucy Handley gets advice from senior marketers on how to succeed in steering your strategy along a higher performing route.


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